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Climate, Energy & Transport

In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presents low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 will explore some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 will present some possible solutions to these challenges.

This statement from the director of the Texas Forest Service makes it clear that the recent wildfires that scorched Texas belong in a new category of disaster. Already, the state’s wildfires this season have consumed 3.6 million acres (an area the size of Connecticut), swallowed over 1,500 homes, and killed at least four people. According to NOAA, the current wildfire is costing more than $1 million per day and exceeds $5 billion in overall damages across the Southwest. These are costs that will be borne by government, business and residents, alike.

2011 was the summer of extreme weather— from the massive drought in the Southwest to record-breaking heat waves to Hurricane Irene’s torrential rains. Each of these events serves as a stark reminder of the growing impacts of climate change. Even so, the main recent discussion around climate change comes from Republican presidential candidates who have been debating the issue. Notably, Jon Huntsman recently Tweeted that he trusts scientists on global warming, adding “Call me crazy”– an invitation surely welcomed by some of his competitors.

While the potential role of ‘green jobs’ is hotly debated, many participants in this debate are talking past one another – starting from different assumptions and definitions, working from different datasets, or hailing from opposite ideological viewpoints on the “true” costs of unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions. A review of the literature provides evidence that clean energy policies and investments can help create job opportunities and competitive gains for the economy. These findings should heighten the demand for policies and investments that hasten a shift to a low-carbon economy and the creation of more clean-energy jobs.

As the climate changes, the global community and national governments both need to take action to prevent the kind of humanitarian disaster underway In parts of the Horn of Africa. Early action can help communities confront climate change, take advantage of ecosystem services, and prevent future food-related tragedies due to drought and other extreme weather.

Last month, Holger Dalkmann started as the newest director of EMBARQ, WRI's center for sustainable transport. An avid cyclist and a geographer by trade, Dalkmann assumes his role with a strong background in business development, research and policy in both transport and environment. Prior to his new role, Dalkmann worked for the Transportation Research Lab and as a policy adviser for governments in Asia and Europe. Dalkmann consulted international organizations like the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and the United Nations Environment Program on issues of transport and climate change.

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